Day 40: July 25, 2016
House on the Rock Wrap-up

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Today I started at the beginning. I thought I had done that yesterday but in rushing into Section #1 I had completely missed the Alex Jordan Center. The Center offers a continuously running five minute movie about the history of the House on the Rock. before watching the movie I knew very little about how it came to be. I knew more afterwards but big blank spots remained. Without thinking about it too much, I sort of assumed the place was built by someone who made a fortune in oil or steel or real estate or something similar then spent his later years as an eccentric collector and amateur architect. But there was no fortune from a previous career or even much of a previous career for that matter. Construction of something started on the site in 1945 and by 1959 enough of the weird structure existed that people were willing to pay to see it. Admissions enabled Jordan to build and fill the current attraction but how things were financed prior to reaching critical mass isn't so clear to me. Displays in the Center tell about some of the House's contents and history and there is a brief video on some of the mechanized music makers created for the House on the Rock.

That's one of those mechanized music makers in the first picture of this panel on Section #2. There are two star attractions in this section with much of the space around them filled with things like model ships, a scrimshaw collection, and other oddities. There are several several music machines and these are what I found most interesting. These machines don't just play back recorded sounds like a phonograph or drive a single device like a music box. They play modified but real instruments mechanically. Orchestrion might be the right word although that name might be reserved for a small group of instruments housed in a single unit.

The first star attraction is the whale. It's huge and is being attacked by an equally huge squid like creature. A ramp -- lined with stuff -- winds around the battle and offers various views but the space is so filled with the giant antagonists that capturing the whole scene is impossible. At the top, where the ramp ends near a model of the Titanic, you're even with the business end of the whale.

Not all mechanized music makers at the House on the Rock were newly created. The fourth photo is of a Hupfeld Phonoliszt Violina from the early twentieth century. Most of the displayed machines are activated by tokens. You're handed four when you enter and can purchase more (4/$1) at stations along the way. Watching and hearing a machine like the Hupfeld is quite the experience as is watching and hearing a full orchestra like the one in the next picture. In the orchestra, mechanical fingers press and pluck the strings or slide bows across them.

The other star of Section #2 is The World's Largest Carousel. Like the whale, it's huge plus it's moving and filled with colored lights in a dark room. Getting decent photographs would take more effort than I was ready to expend. I don't suppose the animals on the carousel are all that strange but neither are they bland horses and ponies. The unicorn I managed to capture is one of the more normal rides available. The one directly in front of it is dog. There are also plenty of bare breasted women on the carousel. That's something I'm generally in favor of though Jordan's bare breasted women often have bizarre masks or the heads or lower body parts of animals. The breasts are always human, though. AFAIK.


With the exception of the open area around the World's Largest Carousel, passing through Section #2 is like following the path through a fun house. The path is never as narrow or confined as in a fun house but it does often wind around in that way that maximizes path length for a given area. Section #3 would be much like that although it started out in a very large room where the path was defined by rails rather than walls. That had also been the case in parts of Section #2 and would be the case elsewhere in Section #3. The large room contained large things like a couple of pipe organ consoles and other pipe organ parts and other items not so easily recognized. My conscious thoughts were that I was in some sort of steam-punk warehouse or attic. The Doll Carousel is filled with dolls riding ponies. But, even with all the cute ponies and all the pretty dolls, the effect was slightly unnerving. It's a feeling that occurred surprisingly often inside the House on the Rock. A large number of doll houses are displayed just beyond the carousel. A "cylinder juke box" stands in the midst of all those doll houses. I'm sure that's not the right name but I think it fits. It contains a several audio cylinders in numbered positions on a wheel. I assume that once upon a time a number could somehow be selected and the associated cylinder moved into playing position. Today I could only drop in a token and listen to whatever it played. It sounded horrible.

The large amount of circus related items on display includes several diorama style settings like the big top scene pictured. I can't swear that it's the only name used but the only name I found on any of the items was Hagenbeck-Wallace. I later determined that Hagenbeck-Wallace was the name of a very real circus that operated through the first couple decades of the twentieth century. I don't know whether the iyems displayed at the House on the Rock are legitimate memorabilia or in house creation but my guess is tha latter. I do know that the worst circus tragedies in history befell the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus in 1918 when a train wreck killed eighty-six of its members. There is also a full size circus display with a full size (or larger) circus orchestra. Here is a section of the orchestra showing some of the wind instruments. Those white disks in front of the clarinetists' faces puff out like cheeks ehen they play though I don't know if that something purely visual or an important part of the playing mechanism.

There's more to Section #3 including a large gun collection, a large armor collection, and a few hundred carousel horses hanging on the walls near one more carousel. This is where the tour ends and this is the last thing to see before exiting Section #3.


These are completely out of sequence and maybe completely out of place but they're of my favorite boat and I'm posting them. I found this semi-accurate model of the Delta Queen among all those ship models along the walls in Section #2. The card on her prow says that Jimmy Carter signed it when he was a passenger on the real Queen in 1979. It looks like what he did was sign a card that has been affixed to the model but that's OK.

While at the House on the Rock I heard about an overlook about a mile north on WI-23. That's the direction I was headed although I probably would have driven to the overlook in any case. I always wondered what infinity looked like from the outside.

Not only does Wisconsin's capitol look like a capitol should, it's positioned so that it looks quite imposing as you drive up to it. Well done, Wisconsin.

I stopped for the night in Janesville just a short walk from the Milwaukee Grill where scanning the menu triggered a more than sixty year old memory. I was never much of a fisher. The last time I can recall even going fishing was in my teens and I didn't particularly enjoy it. I do, however, have earlier memories of fishing and enjoying it immensely. We lived in Ansonia, Ohio, just a couple hundred yard from the Stillwater River. That was only a few miles from the source and the river isn't very wide there. Probably no more than ten yards. Maybe less. Now and then, Dad would go fishing next to the nearby bridge and I would go with him. Looking back it sounds like an Andy Griffith moment though I don't think either of us whistled. I know I didn't. Still can't. One pole was mine and sometimes I would actually catch something. I believe sunfish and bluegill were the only thing we ever hooked. Sunfish were absolutely too small to be worth anything. Bluegill weren't much bigger. But there was a time or two when Dad decided our catch was edible or maybe I talked him into it. He cleaned the tiny fish and Mom cooked them. There wasn't much more than a mouthful in each one but it was a delicious mouthful. It was something I caught. Or helped catch. Or thought I did. We moved the summer I turned six and I don't know that I've eaten bluegill since. I know I'd never seen it on a menu but there it was at the Milwaukee Grill. I ordered it without hesitation. There were ten little fillets not much bigger than what we used to pull out of the Stillwater. It didn't taste quite as good as what Dad and I caught and it wasn't prepared quite as perfectly as when Mom did it but it was good. It was very good. It was so good I wish I could whistle.

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